AT THE PREMIERE OF “THE BUTLER”

The New York premiere was last Monday, I just haven’t had a chance to post since then. Sorry. It was a huge success. I am so proud of this movie directed by Lee Daniels (“Precious“, “Paper Boy“) and starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.

It is an moving (but also humorous), important slice of American history. One you’ll want to bring your whole family to see.

I knew it worked when, after a somber, very intense stretch of the story, there was something funny and the (large) audience roared with laughter. That’s the sort of sign that tells you they’re with you, they’ve hung in. In fact, I was surprised by how many laughs there are.

For me, Forest is the deepest, most soulful American actor alive and we see all of it here. He can express more with his eyes and the quiet set of his face than most can with histrionics.

Oprah disappears into her role as the Butler’s hard drinking, partying wife. I forgot altogether that it was the iconic ‘O’. Whew, she is good! So are the many amazing talents that people this film. John Cusack knocks it out of the park as President Nixon and that couldn’t have been an easy task. Liev Schreiber nails LBJ as does the amazing Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan. I could go on but I’ll just put up the photos from the other night.

With Lee Daniels, Cicely Tyson, Lenny Kravitz, and Oprah.

With Terrence Howard and the actress who plays his wife in the film.

And, from left to right, my manager, Stephanie Simon, me, my dear friend, Pat Mitchell and my beloved step daughter, Laura Turner Seydel. (Pat is married to Laura's father, Scott Seydel. Therefore, we share grandchildren).

The L.A. premiere is Monday night and Mary Williams will be with me. I am so looking forward to seeing the film with them. Mary’s recent book,” The Lost Daughter” told of her growing up in Oakland as a child of the Black Panthers and then coming to be part of my family. Oprah recently did a show about her book that she, Troy and I were on.

The day after the premiere, I visited the Sally Herschberger salon down in the meat packing district where she took this picture of me with the huge mug shot poster she has hanging there.

Then I did The Good Morning America Show and Jimmy Fallon and then flew to my ranch in New Mexico where I met up with Troy.

Gilbert Ortiz, my wonderful ranch manager for 13 years, died three days before and we wanted to be at his funeral. After the moving service in Pecos, his coffin was pulled by a team of two black horses to the cemetery on my ranch. I granted the local Catholic church an easement so they could continue to use this century old burial ground.

Walking behind the caravan with Tommy Mitchell who used to work for me till he and his wife, Carol, moved back to Atlanta. He was close to Gilbert and was one of the pallbearers.

Just on the other side of the white flowers is Gilbert's widow, Virginia, next to her his 93-year-old mother (he visited her every day after work), and his children and grandchildren. Gilbert grew up in Rowe/Pecos and worked on the ranch when it was owned by Colonel Buddy Fogelson and his wife, Oscar winning actress ("Mrs. Miniver") Greer Garson. (The ranch was much bigger then. When the Fogelson's died the ranch was divided into three parcels.) He became their ranch manager and, like me, they loved him very much.

Just before I left I wanted to throw some soil onto his coffin and with it, my love.

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26 Comments
  1. Beautiful ceremony. And I cannot wait to see the movie, “The Butler”. Love, Jane

  2. Jane-
    What a beautiful tribute to Gilbert. I must mention also, I just finished “Prime Time”. As a 27 year old, I was laughed at by friends for this, but I can tell you that it was a very inspiring read for me. I was drawn to read it after I saw you on “Master Class”, where your words struck a cord within me pertaining to perfectionism vs. whole-ism. After growing up watching your movies such as Barefoot in the Park and Sunday in New York (my mother watched TCM often), I became a fan of your movies.
    Now, being able to learn who you are as a person, your life story, your passions and about your activism for females and other political issues-made me see you as a true class act. A “Master Class” from you has really helped me with my struggles with perfectionism, brought on by a long history as a ballet dancer,unstable family, as well as want to be more pro-active in the rights and decisions as a people of this country.

    This has turned to somewhat of a fan letter! If you do get the opportunity to read this-I wanted to give gratitude for being you, and sharing. I’m in “rehearsal” for the prime time already 🙂

    Congrats on “The Butler”. Looking forward…
    Best,
    Rachel

  3. Thank you so much Ms. Fonda for your kind words. Gilbert was my nephew. Virginia is my sister Josie’s daughter. Gilbert’s death is a loss to our family. He was a great man.

    Thank you again for your thoughtfulness.

    God bless you.

    Mary Jane Campos

  4. Another great post and beautiful tribute to your late friend.

    I’m looking forward to The Butler for many reasons. And you’re right about Forest Whitaker – I so admire actors who do their jobs without much fuss, with lots of range, therefore creating such rich, wonderful characters (among male actors, I can think of Christoph Waltz or Bryan Cranston as other examples nowadays and Jack Lemmon and your father from the past).

    I finished This Is Where I Leave You. Oh, I hope you were granted the same great possibilities that this character had in the book (or even more; how funny are the parts where the Hillary compares herself to you, I hope Tropper kept those ones, to make it even funnier) and that you used all the opportunities to shine (I have quite little reason to worry about that lol). With such a rich character, great fellow castmembers and your talent, it can become so epic and I’m very-very excited about that. 🙂

  5. Hi Jane,

    Really looking forward to ‘The Butler’. Only hope it won’t take forever coming to Europe. The pictures are beautiful, especially the ones with Ophrah.
    The funeral pictures are also so impressive, just did not realise that a funeral can be so beautiful or does that sound strange?
    Thanks for sharing,
    Nancy

  6. I am back from a 2 month trip to the City of Vitoria, where my older sister now lives!Such a wonderfull place.There is life after Rio,SĂŁo Paulo,Bahia, Amazon.People should know!Woderfull posts, with your family at the Ranch,the Premiere of the “Butler”.I cannot wait to see the movie here.Only hope it won’t take long coming to Brazil. I LOVE your “new” Hair style, a little longer.Looks so beautifull.Don´t cut it too short anymore.I keep following all “gossips” about you at NYPOST.I think they love you there, and keep following you around:The $50 “Hamburger” at the Hair Saloon,the “canoodling” with Richard at a Restaurant etc.Love it all, and always happy to see you with my other American Idol, Oprah…More Best regards from your N.1 Fan in Brazil….

  7. I love the photograh of you and Tommy Mitchell. It looks like you both are talking to one another, and probably not saying very much of anything out loud. I like that it looks like that…

  8. I look forward to seeing “The Butler”. Thank you for those pictures.
    I am moved by your generosity and kindness in the making the cemetery available for use to a loyal employee of 13 years.
    The last photo with you holding a shovel with your arm in a sling is very impressive. To me it tells a true down to earth story of a good hearted Jane Fonda as she pays her final respects to a loyal friend. I really believe you have a heart of gold.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Joe Ross

  9. I was able to see “The Butler” today. I really enjoyed it. The movie took you through the journey of Civil Rights, the good and the bad. And it is clear that the journey still has a ways to go. Very moving and very shocking at times to see what our country has been through and how people have treated each other. I will definitely bring my nieces to see it, so they can see this important part of history. It was fun seeing all of the different actors take on the characters we all know. Not an easy task. Oprah and Forest took on their roles so naturally. Excellent performances by many, including your role as Nancy Reagan. I see some Oscar contenders come February.
    What a beautiful funeral for your friend and Ranch Manager. Your property must be quite large and peaceful to walk through. Beautiful.

  10. If I had known the date, time and place, I would have attended. The movie is great.

  11. Hi, I just wanted to share with you the facebook review I posted, immediately after seeing “Lee Daniel’s The Butler” today:

    “Lee Daniel’s The Butler” was more than I hoped for it to be.

    An amazing example of cinematic, American storytelling. This is a movie that will both challenge and, ultimately, restore your faith in human progress (at least it did mine).

    There was no disrespect that I could discern shown to the conservative political figures portrayed, fascinatingly, in the movie. In fact, I determined actual effort on the part of the screenplay, direction and actors to capture the essence, and nuance, of goodness in everybody. (Even Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Redgrave, the violent KKK protesters and the lunch counter bigots.)

    Across the board fine, restrained acting. All in service to this true masterpiece of a film made themselves (as) invisible (as possible), in service to our nation’s great story.

    SAG Award and Oscars richly earned and deserved.

    Love takes courage, fear results in violence.

    P.S. Jane, you Nancy Reagan was spot on!! This is the First Lady I came of age with. (I remember her appearance on TV after a “very special episode” of “Punky Brewster” about peer pressure and drug use. Their was a very studied elegance and fierce commitment about her that even I admired. In many ways, she was the Hillary Rodham Clinton of her time. One step behind her man. The criticism of the portrayal of the Reagans in this movie is knee-jerk liberalism. I really do think that Reagans stand against standing against apartheid DID have more to do with his blind devotion to destroying Communism, more than it had anything to do with racism. It’s sad when people become more married to their ideology than they are to their common sense (the ideal always being decency). You were very decent to Nancy — and I applaud that. LOVED the sassy walk. Hope that you are included in the SAG ensemble award!!

  12. *oops! I meant to say knee-jerk conservatism. And, sorry for my typos.

  13. Saw “The Butler” and thought it was excellent! Was surprised tonight to learn about the movie theater owner who refuses to show this movie and wants it boycotted because of your Vietnam War activity!! How much longer will these people continue to crucify you for what happened 40 years ago!? I don’t understand why they keeping harping on this issue! Your portrayal of Nancy Reagan was very dignified and respectful. What do you think of this nonsense? The way I see it is it is giving an already successful movie a lot more publicity, so this “boycott” is a joke. Too bad you didn’t have more screen time!

  14. It pisses me right off that right-wing agenda conservative pundits are spreading the lie that your t-shirt (featuring your “power the the people” salute mugshot) as an “offensive nickname” I won’t repeat t-shirt. What is to be gained from these lies that are told about you other than controlling people’s minds through unfortunate hatred (the ultimate form of fear)?

    To me, you embracing the mugshot speaks to a celebration of your commitment to challenging the status quo.

    I really wish that people would stop to look at that “other” photograph of you. I have never seen anything other than an earnest desire to connect on a human level with your hosts. Misguided and ill-timed — it really isn’t for anyone to say. Designed to promote anything other than love? Not for one second.

    When you rock the boat, people get wet. But, my God, you — at the very, very least — had a noble mission. Those who fan the flames over on instant of a shutter snap — four decades ago… Those who willfully distort the truth of the here and now…

    I just sometimes worry that it probably does still hurt after all these years. And, I just want to take the time to say the totality of you is admired, loved and respected (and where necessary, forgiven and understood) by many.

    • THANK YOU, PETER. IT HURTS ME FOR THOSE WHO HANG ONTO HATRED AND ARE UNABLE TO HEAR THE TRUTH. THANK YOU FOR YOUR LETTER.

  15. Hello Jane I’m karima and I’m a Palestinian American living in Chicago il. I recently saw the butler and I must say seeing you in that scene really made my day. For I second I started to like Nancy Reagan. Your talent, smile, warmth and personality really lit up the screen. I have been a fan of yours since the beginning of your career. A lot of your movies kept me strong during the hard times back in the Middle East so I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    I have a question for you. Was it hard making it to Hollywood? And do you think it’s even harder for my minorities? My 13 year old brother has been going to acting classes and auditions for 5 years now. He really loves what he does but he gets very disappointed after every audition since he hasn’t booked anything. I work and go to school full time but I always manage to get him to every audition on time. I fully support him as much as I can. I feel like arabs and middle Easters are sometimes poorly portrayed in movies and i thinks it’s due to the reason that there isn’t an actor that is from that region that people can relate too. Do you agree? That’s just my opinion.
    Can you offer us some advice on what to do? Shall we go on?

    • KARIMA, GLAD YOU LIKED THE BUTLER & ME AS MRS REAGAN.
      IT IS HARD MAKING IT AS AN ACTOR HERE. VERY HARD. BUT WE DO NEED ACTORS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST. IT SEEMS LIKE MORE AND MORE INDIAN ACTORS ARE WORKING. PATIENCE & PERSISTENCE ARE NEEDED.

  16. Sorry, I’m about to comment off topic. You just made The Newsroom with your guest appearance! That was so much freaking fun to watch!
    “GET IT BACK!” -Leona
    WOW!!!
    Ms. Fonda, I don’t know how show business works but can you ask Mr. Sorkin to make you a regular on the show? And also to keep writing the best lines for Leona? Please?

  17. Dear Jane,

    I have been a long-time fan of your work but here just had to register onto your site to be able to tell you, “You killed it as Nancy Reagan!!!!! And last night, as Leona! That was beyond fantastic! Talk about being a Girl On Fire!!!

    Thank you for who you are, all you stand for, who you’ve been and who you continue to be. You continue to be a huge inspiration to us all!

    With great admiration,
    Cynthia

  18. Saw the movie the THE BUTLER yesterday and you were great. Really enjoyed you as Nancy Reagan.
    On another subject: Thank you for trying to do all you could to end the war in Viet Nam. It has taken some a long time to see what was wrong with that war.. I lost two former high school students who were in my classes in that terrible war. One of the boys did more as an outstanding high school football player to help with the first integration of the school in those days than anyone that I knew… Sadly this young African American US Marine was killed on his first day in VN…. It is haunting to think of all the killing.
    On the other hand some will never see anything but what they want to see… “there are none as blind as those who do not want to see.”
    Great movie and great acting…
    Joe Ross

    • Thanks, Joe. And it’s the only film this year that’s been #1 for 3 weeks in a row. Yea! That shows people want to see meaningful films, not just hyper violent, special effect-heavy stuff.

  19. Dear Jane,

    I hesitate to bring this up, but I went to see The Butler last night, and posted on my FB page:

    “I went to see “The Butler” last night and I made it through 20 minutes of it. Not because it wasn’t an excellent movie. Forest Whitaker and Oprah are really good. But I was so angry at the beginning of the film with all the scenes of the disgusting, fowl, asshole, violence against folks wanting to eat at a lunch counter or ride a bus, and white jerks calling them horrible names. I wasn’t in the States during the 60’s and we were in the military which was integrated and it must have been living in some kind of dream world. I just totally lost it in that theater.
    And when the bus ran into a group of those assholes with white sheets, I got up and ( cannot believe I did this) was walking near the screen and yelled at the top of my lungs..”You mother-fuckin’ white assholes” at the screen, and ran out.

    Nobody in the audience said anything to me…nor did they even twitch during all that horrible stuff on the screen.
    I ran out and just started sobbing…I mean sobbing!
    Maybe I should feel embarassed sharing this on Facebook….but my reaction was so gut-wrenching. I called my sister and then a close friend phoned me out of the blue when I was outside the theater. Luckily she and I could talk about all this. because she had a really sheltered life too.
    Probably everybody should go see that film especially teenagers (but not young kids).

    How a country (or yet still – a Butler) walk around and hear people use horrible words and just think it’s normal, telling people to go use another bathroom or eat in the back alley.
    End of rant……………I pray to God that NOBODY stands around and watches somebody being bullied or laughed at or called horrible names or jumped on and beaten. I pray that these bystanders will take their belts and purses and elbows and knees…and beat the crap out of these cowardly thugs.”

    I received some comments:

    SUSAN GRANSEE says: ” and some of these people felt they were doing the right thing “in the name of God”..no excuse for this behavior and discrimination….”

    JUDY NORLIN says : “The training sessions for participants with Clara Luper in Oklahoma City in the mid 50s started with protecting your vital organs, and that separated the wheat from the chat, followed with controlling your anger. I have always said that if I had been born black, I would not have survived the 50s. The 50s and 60s were heady times. And I had small, bright , sensitive female children who soaked it up and experienced some things I’m sorry about and some things I’m proud of. ”

    Jane, maybe you won’t read this. I was 17 when I began college. I had a career as a Social Worker.
    How could I become SO angry and sad and begin sobbing? I was in Europe as a military brat during the 60’s. My parents NEVER discussed race or religion or hate etc. The Vietnam War was a topic my dad and I disagreed on……..
    Maybe I should go and see the entire film “The Butler” but I was so sickened I wanted to run and run. You were here during the March on Washington, and the church bombing down south, and the lynching of innocent people.

    I am so very ashamed of this country. One black woman made a comment saying: “For over 500 years, the black race has lived in concentration camps in America.”

    I was SO angry at the screen and those horrible cruel people. I remember seeing “Precious” also by Lee Daniels. I dreamt about the horror of that film and how much cruelty that poor child received.

    Thanks for reading this. I’m probably the ONLY person who fled the theater while screaming obscene foul language at those KKK assholes. I am so glad I was not there as people told me the KKK burned those people alive in that scene.

    One more thing: I am 61 years old, but inside I am 17 years old! The war in Vietnam was fought by poor black kids. Heroin use was the only way they could cope. My friends went there and said they were DROPPED into the jungle to fend for themselves. Jane, YOU took abuse but I’m damn proud of you for educating yourself and not just sprouting Hollywood BS. Westmoreland was a liar and he cooked the books. His ego caused 17 year old boys to die. I’M PROUD OF YOU, JANE! And I bet my idol KATHARINE HEPBURN is damn proud of you for being gutsy and never letting your
    values bow to public BS. HEPBURN and TRACY always made their co-stars look great and they fought the McCarthy witchhunt, and I’m sure they are saying “Go, Go, Go, Jane…..never stop!”

    Love and Laughter always,

    Nancy James
    200 Plum Pl.
    Oxnard, Ca. 93036
    (805)822-7029

    • Nancy, go see the Butler all the way through and just cover your ears and eyes during the KKK part. You’ll be glad you did. xx

  20. Dear Jane,

    I recently saw The Butler and noticed that you gave a great performance as Nancy Reagan. Due to your extensive acting skill, talent and experience as well as being about the right age you were a great selection for this role. It was certainly nice to see you on the screen. The other actors and actresses also gave fine performances.

    I also wanted to say I agree with the part of your book My Life So Far where on p. 339 you say the Gulf of Tonkin incident (of August 1964) which was used as justification for the Vietnam War was a hoax. I also believe that the incident was fake. In fact, I was taught that it was fake in my history class in my senior year of high school. I believe that President Johnson knew it was fake.

    Kind Wishes,

    David Kashfi

  21. Hi Jane – I recently saw The Butler and I must say, the grandest of all ironies was seeing you play the part of Nancy Reagan. Poetic Justice at its finest!

    Great casting – especially Lenny Kravitz stretching in his role to play someone unassuming and subservient.

    However, the film left me with some dissatisfaction as it did not, in my view, develop the characters deeply enough for me to care much one way or another how things turned out in the end. The brief nod to the Black Panther Party was cursory and superficial in its portrayal of the efforts that were made in Oakland by Huey Newton, et al.,

    Since my formative years began with the assassination of our then-president, I remember the heady events of the times vividly and felt The Butler, for all its good intentions and motivations – fell flat.

    • I dont agree, Sally, but that’s ok. It’s so hard when you try to tell a whole swath of history not to give some parts short shrift.

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